Per Aspera ad astra
I love the fact that the word inspiration takes its root from the action of taking a breath in. It is a gesture of giving life as much as it's opposite - expiration - is synonymous with with death. So the creative process of making music is really bringing to life what we see on the page of a music score. To identify mutual experiences, sentiments, gestures inscribed in music is to find the understanding and comfort. It is one of the most basic mechanisms we use to learn life. This is my first objective when dealing with music - to create a clear and detailed sound scape in my visceral engine, a scape that within the canvas of the stylistic idiom of each composer, stands as a gesture a human being would be capable of performing in real life. Only then does it make sense to undertake any talk of technical means.
My ear for good operatic singing started to sharpen when I signed my first contract with the Royal Opera House in London. I could see how the singers operate with their voices through the long process of a production, how their phrases grow from week to week; naturally acquiring strength and fluidity layer by layer in order to make their public statements in performance; how they paced their rehearsal time to build up to the peak on the opening night. Since then I have been assisting countless singing lessons, language coachings and stagecraft sessions as a member of the Jette Parker Young Artists Program coaching body; I strive to deepen my understanding of what is expected from an opera singer today. I have been incredibly fortunate to learn from the leading artists of the operatic world: I have worked on Rossinian coloraturas with Teresa Berganza, I have witnessed Dame Kiri Te Kanawa at work with young singers (performing together à l' impromptu Duparc's Chanson Triste with her is a celestial moment I will never forget!). I learned how to play Brahms and Wolf from Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Mahler from Christa Ludwig, Poulenc and Ravel from Dalton Baldwin, Britten from Sir Thomas Allen, Schubert and Hahn from Graham Johnson to name just a few. The interesting thing is that all these great masters talk all about one and the same thing - finding humanity in the process must be the cardinal task; and less sound, gentle and mindful cultivating of the voice, elegance and intelligence.
In my coaching I love to conjure up the joy of music in my students and give tangible tools to put in practise what ' the heart has desired'. I do believe very, very much that a happy human is much more likely to find ingenious solutions to the challenges awaiting on the way to accomplished performances. And since we are all different we all need to find our personal comfort in the technical side of the game and psychological comfort in expressing emotions that the text brings into the picture. Celebrating what's individual in each of us is what ultimately determines that a performer grows into an artist of unique qualities and stands a chance to be given opportunities to find their place in the industry.
There is plenty of work in music. There are hundreds of recitals, opera shows and galas that happen every day. I want to empower my students to believe that they can be the next performers who walk on those stages and share with the audiences their story.
Working at the Jette Parker Young Artist Programme and the Royal Academy of Music makes my daily coaching schedule very colourful; a 45 minute session can be used in many different ways: from an act of an opera to a song that is one page long; it can involve improvising music to study emotions in stagecraft sessions, or negotiation between a legato line and the intricacies of pronouncing foreign languages. But above all I strive to achieve one goal - to identify the mutual life experiences, emotions and resolutions, which trigger a visceral impulse in order to give a live performance a spontaneous human gesture. And Goethe's iconic words of 'Kennst du das Land, wo die Zitronen blühn?' seem to sound so right.